Phase retrieval and differential phase-contrast imaging with low-brilliance X-ray sources

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Abstract

X-ray radiographic absorption imaging is an invaluable tool in medical diagnostics and materials science. For biological tissue samples, polymers or fibre composites, however, the use of conventional X-ray radiography is limited due to their weak absorption. This is resolved at highly brilliant X-ray synchrotron or micro-focus sources by using phase-sensitive imaging methods to improve the contrast1,2. However, the requirements of the illuminating radiation mean that hard-X-ray phase-sensitive imaging has until now been impractical with more readily available X-ray sources, such as X-ray tubes. In this letter, we report how a setup consisting of three transmission gratings can efficiently yield quantitative differential phase-contrast images with conventional X-ray tubes. In contrast with existing techniques, the method requires no spatial or temporal coherence, is mechanically robust, and can be scaled up to large fields of view. Our method provides all the benefits of contrast-enhanced phase-sensitive imaging, but is also fully compatible with conventional absorption radiography. It is applicable to X-ray medical imaging, industrial non-destructive testing, and to other low-brilliance radiation, such as neutrons or atoms.

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Figure 1: Talbot–Lau-type hard-X-ray imaging interferometer.
Figure 2: X-ray images and section profiles of a test sample containing one PTFE and two PMMA spheres, retrieved from image data recorded with a standard X-ray tube operated at 40 kV/25 mA.
Figure 3: X-ray images of a small fish retrieved from image data recorded with a standard X-ray tube operated at 40 kV/25 mA.

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Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of C. Grünzweig in the measurements and P. R. Willmott for fruitful discussions.

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Correspondence to Franz Pfeiffer.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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